Although the core philosophy of SisterFlirt.ca is non-theistic (we do not believe in gods as other than allegorical) it is at the same time both spiritual and humanist. Although not everyone agrees, many people do find benefit in rituals and imagery from our (collective human) past.
Rituals: “actions with intentional symbolic meaning undertaken for a specific cultural purpose” (Source)
Spiritual truth may be found around the world and across time; from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome to various aboriginal cultures and “eastern religions” past and present. And so our rituals come from a variety of traditions; an open and honest heart may commune with the Divine through any number of paths. The Universal Life Church uses the following picture to illustrate this:
We now live in a culture that has lost sight of thousands of years of ritual, that has replaced wisdom learned from living in earth-centric communities with a blend of psycho-babble and a patriarchal fear-driven illusion of what makes “a real man” or, for that matter, “a real woman”. Some say that we no longer need ritual and ceremony because they are basically nothing but religious practises and “god is dead“.
Yet we continue to engage in ceremonies from birth to death; baptism (or baby-naming), circumcision, marriage and funerals being perhaps the most obvious. While we in the ‘modern world’ no longer engage in pagan/ heathen ‘coming of age’ rituals centered on wilderness survival or various gender-segregated ceremonies, many a youngster still has a Mitzvah or their Senior Prom or a ritual around getting their first car.
Some therapists have come to recognize there is, or can be, some benefit to be gained through rituals marking other events; loss of a personal or business relationship (divorce or getting laid off) is recognized as having a major impact on one’s mental health. We hold the spirits of those four-leggeds who have blessed us with their love very close to our heart and know just how deeply such losses are felt.
Neo-pagans have long recognized this and have ceremonies and rituals to mark any number of milestones in the cycle of life. With this in mind, we are available to commemorate those events you consider important milestones in your journey on this planet; we will work with you to prepare and facilitate a suitable ceremony.
the Ritual of Confession
Many LGBT/Queer folks avoid all religious rituals; often for very good reason. One that continues to provide some benefit in spite of often being used in negative and controlling ways is Confession. Wallowing in perpetual guilt is detrimental to good mental health. All the more so when the guilt has been poured out by others, based on their perceptions of what is ‘the one true path’. SFCA continues to fight against stigmatic guilt and the disastrous results.
Why use ‘native American’ Rituals?
As noted below, our primary source for theology and imagery is ancient Egypt. Additional symbolism and rituals have been adapted from the published traditions of the First Nations of North America. We don’t claim any miraculous direct connection between ancient Egypt and pre-Colonial America, other than perhaps universal archetypes or a collective unconscious(1).
We have often been asked why we don’t instead study the pagan traditions of our European (specifically British) heritage. Not to discount in any way the horrific results of attempts made by early European ‘settlers’ (‘invaders’ more accurately) to eradicate the languages, traditions and beliefs of the existing population here; those attempts were unsuccessful- or rather they only partially succeeded. That is, some parts of the cultures of at least some of the First Nations have survived.
There is no verifiable lineage for modern Neo-Pagan traditions. Much of the ritual and mythology so labelled is, at best, informed and educated speculation. Very few (if any) original sources exist for such common Neo-Pagan or New Age traditions as astrology or numerology. What the early church could not eliminate they co-opted. Much of our oldest-available information on such practices and traditions are clearly tainted by Christian beliefs. The early church (more precisely, the Catholic Corporation) was ruthless in converting pagan populations. In the process they strategically destroyed (or perhaps quarantined) writings and artifacts that might now shed light on these pre-Christian spiritualities.
All this is to say that some First Nations retain knowledge of their pre-Christian spirituality, and their sharing of that may be helpful in our quest for the spiritual origin of man. As I note on my Biography page, “I make no claim to have been trained or raised within those traditions and do not identify as a ‘shaman’ or ‘medicine man’.”
Why Use Ancient Egyptian Imagery?
Our core beliefs are, as Joseph Campbell clearly illustrates in his The Masks of the Gods series (and other books) universal. Allegory, parables and myths sharing incredibly similar images and themes are found around the globe and across centuries. The study of, and reflection upon, the origins and stories of the great “Eastern” religions (Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc) may well lead one to personal growth and enlightenment. Some people will be inspired or intrigued by their ‘exotic nature’.
However, the modern “Western” mind has been greatly influenced (some would say ‘restrained’ or ‘corrupted’) by the “religions of the book”. The impact of Judaism and Christianity on “Western” thought (and now, most of this planet) is immense. The influence of early Islamic thought on the other two, and the struggles between all three (for both worldly power and human souls) is well-known. We consider it more likely that the allegorical and mythic roots of these traditions will better resonate with a modern “Western” mind.
The origins of these traditions are to be found in ancient Egypt. A growing number of well-respected scholars and writers agree. What was for centuries clearly understood to be allegorical was twisted into a supposed history of real people. Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote “the original formulators of the divine myths never dreamed there would come a time so degenerate in reflective capacity that the products of their allegorical genius would be mistaken for the body of reality itself.” (2), Kuhn then goes on to quote Egyptologist Gerald Massey: “most of our popular beliefs are fossilized symbolism.“(3)
This can also be expressed as “Lose the myth and you lose everything” (from The Pagan Jesus: Recovering the Lost Light written by Tom Harpur; ordained priest, scholar and long-time religious commentator based in Toronto). Our purpose now is to understand the ancient symbols and how perhaps they were understood in their time. Only then can their universal truth be appreciated and accepted in our “modern” world.
(1) “there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature
which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually
but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become
conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents“
Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
(2) Kuhn, A Rebirth of Christianity, 2nd edition 2005
(3) Massey, The Natural Genesis, 1883